The origin of this famous San Francisco specialty is open to speculation. Most locals believe it is related to the Italian cacciucco, a fish stew of Livorno, and to the fish stews of the Friuli region, which are made with red wine. Serve with grilled coarse country bread rubbed with garlic.



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Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 6


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 cups  chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 3 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 2 tsp. ground fennel seeds
  • 1 to 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 5 cups fish stock
  • 3 cups chopped canned plum tomatoes, with their juices
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup thick tomato puree
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 18 clams, well scrubbed
  • 1 crab or lobster, cooked, cracked and sectioned
  • into 2 to 3-inch pieces
  • 18 mussels, well scrubbed and debearded
  • 18 shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 18 sea scallops, tough muscles removed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or basil


  • In a large stockpot or saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the celery, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes and cook until the celery is soft, about 5 minutes more. Add the fish stock, tomatoes, wine and tomato puree and simmer for about 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the clams to the pot along with the crab. Cover and simmer briskly until the clams start to open, about 5 minutes. Add the mussels (discard any that do not close to the touch), shrimp and scallops and continue to cook until the mussels open, the shrimp turn pink and the scallops are opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Ladle the cioppino into warmed bowls, dividing the shellfish as evenly as possible and discarding any mussels that did not open. Sprinkle with the parsley. Serve immediately.


Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Soup for Supper, by Joyce Goldstein (Time-Life Books, 1998).
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